ENSO Impacts on Peak Wind Gusts in the United States

Jesse Enloe National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, North Carolina

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James J. O'Brien Center for Ocean–Atmospheric Prediction Studies, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida

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Shawn R. Smith Center for Ocean–Atmospheric Prediction Studies, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida

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Abstract

Changes in the peak wind gust magnitude in association with the warm and cold phases of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) are identified over the contiguous United States. All calculations of the peak wind gust are differences in the extreme phases of ENSO (warm and cold) relative to neutral for all stations in the study that pass the completeness criteria. Monthly composites were created for all years in the study (1 January 1948 through 31 August 1998). The differences in the mean peak wind gust are calculated for each month. A nonparametric statistical test was invoked to determine significant shifts in the extreme phase distributions. Differences in the frequency of gale-force wind gusts were also calculated.

The results show a dominant, ENSO cold phase wintertime signal. Regions most greatly affected are the Pacific Northwest, Southwest, the Great Plains, and the region extending from the Great Lakes through the Ohio River valley, and southwest into Texas. During the cold phase months from November to March, these regions experience an overall increase in the gustiness of the winds. The warm phase is associated with overall decreased gustiness in the Pacific Northwest during these months; however, the signal is of a lesser magnitude. There is also an observed decrease in the central Great Plains during the warm phase months of April and June. These results, along with improved ENSO forecasting, can work toward mitigating adverse effects of strong wind gusts and increase the utilization of wind power.

Corresponding author address: Mr. Jesse Enloe, National Climatic Data Center, 151 Patton Ave, Rm 514, Asheville, NC 28801. Email: jesse.enloe@noaa.gov

Abstract

Changes in the peak wind gust magnitude in association with the warm and cold phases of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) are identified over the contiguous United States. All calculations of the peak wind gust are differences in the extreme phases of ENSO (warm and cold) relative to neutral for all stations in the study that pass the completeness criteria. Monthly composites were created for all years in the study (1 January 1948 through 31 August 1998). The differences in the mean peak wind gust are calculated for each month. A nonparametric statistical test was invoked to determine significant shifts in the extreme phase distributions. Differences in the frequency of gale-force wind gusts were also calculated.

The results show a dominant, ENSO cold phase wintertime signal. Regions most greatly affected are the Pacific Northwest, Southwest, the Great Plains, and the region extending from the Great Lakes through the Ohio River valley, and southwest into Texas. During the cold phase months from November to March, these regions experience an overall increase in the gustiness of the winds. The warm phase is associated with overall decreased gustiness in the Pacific Northwest during these months; however, the signal is of a lesser magnitude. There is also an observed decrease in the central Great Plains during the warm phase months of April and June. These results, along with improved ENSO forecasting, can work toward mitigating adverse effects of strong wind gusts and increase the utilization of wind power.

Corresponding author address: Mr. Jesse Enloe, National Climatic Data Center, 151 Patton Ave, Rm 514, Asheville, NC 28801. Email: jesse.enloe@noaa.gov

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